Social Media Gaming Ushers In Age Of Micropayments, Facebook Credits & Google.Me

As Zynga continues to dominant the online social media gaming space, other players like and Disney are looking to get a piece of the action. Facebook Credits is the dominant monetization avenue for the social network that's proven users are willing to pay for virtual items one small purchase at a time.

With half of all Facebook users addicted to social games and 40 percent of their total time on the site whittled away playing games, is it any wonder that Disney would jump into the fray? Now competing head-on with Zynga, the world's largest online game developer, Disney shelled out $750 million to buy Playdom, one its major competitors.

On the heels of acquiring Tapulous, another gaming company adapted mainly for the iPhone, Disney's entre' into the space will be followed by upstarts such as CrowdStar. Laurent Courtines of says "CrowdStar has the best relationship with Facebook and the remaining games developers," and is the guinea pig for Facebook Credits. With successful games such as "Happy Aquarium" and "Happy Pets," according to Courtines, he feels that a larger player like Disney will be acquiring them soon as well.

Facebook CreditsFacebook CreditsAs much as Facebook considers itself a social network and advertising channel, Courtines also believes that they are going to have to acknowledge that they are major gaming platform. "Without the games, one could argue, Facebook would not be half the size it is today and certainly would not have the revenue," adds Courtines. Facebook Credits requiring a 30 percent transaction fee, or what some gaming outfits call a tax, was a point of contention when Zynga almost severed ties with the social network back in May (see previous post, titled, "War of Wills - Zynga Refuses To Pay Facebook Credits' 30 Percent Tax").

Underscoring the importance of Facebook Credits, Disney and Playdom have signed a five-year contract to exclusively use Facebook Credits as an in-game currency across all of its titles reports Inside Social Games. CrowdStar also signed as did LOLapps, RockYou and Wooga.

While Zynga settled with Facebook on using Facebook Credits, the company along with Electronic Arts has yet to sign an exclusive deal with Facebook.

The beauty of bundling micropayments via Facebook Credits is that a single virtual currency could increase the size of the market exponentially by making it easier for users to purchase items where they don't have to continually use  credit cards.

The social game ecosystem is thriving and growing at such a pace that Google who is becoming more and more a competitor of Facebook doesn't want to be left out in the cold. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, it was noted that the search giant is in talks with all the big social-gaming companies including Playfish, Playdom and Zynga. Alongside developing their own social network called Google.Me, Google's intent is to develop a broader social-networking service that would go head-to-head with Facebook to become game-centric (see my previous post, titled "'Google Me' Silly - Does Google Have The 'Social Networking' Gene?")

While social networking has aided us in our professional lives allowing us to interact with users worldwide, build brands and stretch our knowledge base, it looks like many of us are preferring to take a curious fork in the road toward addictive gaming.

If social media gaming is taking up 40 percent of our time - are we starting to favor leisure pursuits  which many deem distracting versus enterprising? Will building your next crop in Farmville become a user's focus or can we blend the two worlds?

Zynga is already experimenting by embedding brand advertising into their games. In total, 310 million Cascadian Farm organic blueberries have been planted by Farmville players giving that brand a foothold in both the real and virtual space!  So as these two worlds collide, perhaps it is possible have fun while working - perhaps we can play games and still conduct business!